Three priests honored
during annual event
An enthusiastic crowd of 600 people joined in a "celebration of vocations," as described by the diocesan head of the Knights of Columbus, raising funds to support vocations and honoring three diocesan priests for their individual excellence.
"It begins with you," said Archbishop Alex J. Brunett, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Oakland, challenging the largely married audience. "So much depends on living your own vocation."
The Macadaegs agree. When their children were young they made sure the family sat in the first three pews so the children could follow the Mass, recalls mother Cindy, adding that now "he's so happy."
The big stars of the evening were priests honored with Knights of Columbus' Pastoral Excellence Awards. Each has a very different story of vocation and success as a parish priest.
Rev. Lawrence D'Anjou, parochial administrator of St. Raymond Church in Dublin, found a later-in-life vocation. Now parishioners describe him as "the guy who walks the walk in our parish." He has made effective changes, including a new emphasis on children at the 9 a.m. Sunday liturgy that fills the church.
When Father D'Anjou realized he had a calling from God, "I felt a great sense of joy." He emphasized that "when you embrace a vocation, know it, love it — it brings a great joy to your life." Soon after he applied for the seminary and was ordained in 2000.
Rev. Ian Mendoza was ordained just three years ago. Small in stature, he clearly has a big heart as parishioners, friends and family crowded around to congratulate the easily approachable young man. His approachability is an important asset, especially with younger people who may be shy around priests.
Father Mendoza's ability "to see the beauty of people" won the hearts of parishioners at St. Joan of Arc in San Ramon, where he serves. Noticing a weakness in outreach to 20- and 30-year-old parishioners, he built Young Adult Ministry Hanging Out Together. It brings young people together for retreats, picnics, bowling, even an annual hike up Mount Diablo that finishes with Father Mendoza saying Mass at the summit for more than 150 people.
In April Father Mendoza will transfer his approachable charism to Christ the King Church in Pleasant Hill.
In contrast, the third honoree was ordained more than 30 years ago in his native India. He served for more than 20 years before coming here in 2004.
When Rev. Antony Vazhappilly came to St. James the Apostle Church in Fremont in 2007, it had 150 families. Today St. James is a vibrant community of 800 families with big enthusiasm.
Working without paid staff, Father Vazhappilly has big plans — an education center, a new church, converting the existing church into a gym and more. With lots of donated time and talent, the parish built a beautiful prayer garden that draws people to pray even late into the evening.
Father Vazhappilly has found time to write two books, most recently "Songs for a Spiritual Journey," with a poem for each week of the year. After he announced that all proceeds would go toward the $75,000 he intends to raise for the parish, people crowded around to buy and have him autograph the book.
The two big inspirations in his life were his own mother and Mother Teresa, whom he met several times. That gave him a strong devotion to Mary.
"Bring Mary back home and you will see the difference in your family" and in vocations, Father Vazhappilly emphasized.
"No one deserves to be a priest, unless God calls. Allow him to do whatever he wants. The best source of vocations comes from the parents."
The Annual Bishops Vocation and Priest Recognition Dinner was held in the Msgr. Cardelli Center at St. Isidore parish in Danville.
An important part of the program was recognition for more than 30 altar servers who attended the event. Young Catholics came from other venues, too, including campus ministry students from Carondelet High School in Concord.
"We are here to encourage young people," Starkweather said, "and let them know that the Knights of Columbus enthusiastically support vocations." The Knights have 6,000 members in the Oakland diocese organized in 47 parish-based councils.
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